Yahoo! is launching a premium online audio and video service today that aims to boost its growing base of broadband users.The Platinum service will offer content and programming from a host of news, sports and entertainment providers.
"We are really excited because this is our first branded broadband offering," said David Mandelbrot, vice president and general manager of Media, Entertainment, Information and Finance for Yahoo!.
The $9.95 a month premium service offers content from ABC News, The Weather Channel, CBS MarketWatch, CBS Sports, and others, as well as behind-the-scenes peeks at reality TV shows such as Survivor and American Idol.
Yahoo! is also offering a version of the service tailored to sports fans and featuring exclusive, live coverage of the NCAA's 2003 Men's Division I Basketball Championship and NASCAR events from NASCAR.com. The Yahoo! Platinum SportsPak is priced at $16.95 a month.
Platinum functions through both RealNetworks and Windows Media Player technologies, offering media content in 56K, 100K and 300K bit rate streams.
"We expect the service to be popular with both at-home and at-work users," Mandelbrot said, who added that he expected broadband use to continue to grow at a "brisk pace".
Rival AOL has been struggling to increase its own pool of high-speed users to shore up dwindling revenue. AOL also offers exclusive and on-demand content to its broadband users, through partnerships with CNN, Time magazines, and other media holdings owned by parent company AOL Time Warner.
Yahoo!'s foray into on-demand video and programming could spell rougher waters ahead for AOL as it struggles to net more high-speed users, especially given Yahoo!'s plans to incorporate into Yahoo! Premium features considered staples of the AOL service, such as allowing users to share content and personalise the service.
Yahoo! is also looking into incorporating other features into Yahoo Platinum, such as a music service and interactive advertising, which AOL Broadband already has.